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What is Penetration Testing and how it works?

Penetration testing is the consideration of how to circumvent an organization’s or individual’s security systems.

It is used by security professionals to evaluate their skills in computer security and hacking methods, as well as it can be used for vulnerability evaluation before the launch of new hardware or software products.

In this article, we will look at Penetration testing in details.

So let’s begin.


What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing is a very good way of securing your system. It is used to identify the vulnerabilities in the system.

Penetration Testing

With the help of the test, you will be able to find out how your security can be compromised and you will also get an idea on what approaches are being made by hackers to hack into your system.

Penetration testing software gives you a chance to scan your systems for any vulnerabilities.

This software makes use of some kind of a pre-programmed algorithm which includes a predetermined list of techniques.

These software’s are used as a part of the penetration testing process and they allow security professionals to simulate an attack on their own systems.

Penetration testing is done from time to time by system administrators, IT specialists and web developers and it is a good practice to protect the company from any vulnerabilities.

Before taking into consideration penetration testing, one should keep some important things in mind.

The first thing that needs to be kept in mind is that this type of testing is illegal and it can be used only once by a person who received permission from an administrator.

Second thing that you need to make sure is that your system should not be broken and you should give the authorization to perform penetration testing.

The third thing that you need to keep in mind is that if something goes wrong during the process, then the network will get directly affected and also it can lead to a total loss of data since all traffic passes through this network.

And lastly, if a hacker gains access to your system during the process, he will have complete control over your network and all the data there. So, it is important for you to be aware of these things before considering penetration testing on a network.

Penetration testing software makes use of pre-defined rules or an algorithm which allows scanning computers for vulnerabilities and you can easily find out whether your system is vulnerable or not.

This testing is essential because by the time, it comes up with security loopholes which leads to a complete protection of the system and data.

There are many different types of penetration testing software available for use and they vary in functionality as well as price.

There are basically two different types of penetration testing software:

1. Active Network Scanners

Network scanners which can be used to monitor and discover vulnerabilities in the network and these types of scanners perform packet capturing, port scanning, fingerprinting etc.

These tools may use a preset list of vulnerabilities or they can even have a programming language which allows users to write their own vulnerability.

2. Passive Network Scanners:

Passive network scanners are the one which does not make use of any kind of a programming language and they only scan for vulnerabilities in the network.

These types of software’s do not make any modifications in the system or in its registry files, nor they transmit data across the network.

This is an important feature of the scanning software because during the penetration testing process, it is possible that some of the actions might get blocked by firewalls or other security devices. So, these types of scanners are considered safer than active scanners.

Penetration testing software can perform different tasks like they can identify backdoors and remotely accessible services along with potential vulnerabilities in operating systems and databases.

Penetration testing software performs complete analysis of the system’s security and it is possible that many vulnerabilities get discovered by this method and effective steps can be taken to eliminate them.

Hackers today use a very simple technique for hacking into systems; they only try different passwords until one matches with valid password and then they gain access to the system.

Penetration testing software uses this technique too and it tries to log into different accounts with different sets of passwords.

So, if the system is accessible by using less secure methods like default usernames and passwords then these types of penetration testing tools can easily gain access to the system.

There are certain security steps that must be taken before starting a penetration testing process. These steps include:

  • Formulating a plan which defines the goals of the test, how it will be performed and for whom;
  • Making arrangements for the test to get successfully completed;
  • Involving people who are supposed to be involved in the testing process;
  • Conducting an ethical vulnerability assessment before starting the process;
  • Notifying the owner of the system that a risk assessment is going to be performed on his system.
  • Depending on some external factors like: type and size of your network, amount of time and resources available for testing and more.

Penetration testing software makes use of some rules or an algorithm which helps in scanning the system for vulnerabilities; this is why it is very important to choose the right type of penetration testing software.

What is the main difference between vulnerability scanning and penetration testing?

Vulnerability scanning is a process that allows software to find and resolve system vulnerabilities that may be left unattended.

Vulnerability scans are the first step in the information assurance process. Penetration testing, on the other hand, is a hacking technique used to test the security of applications and networks.

The result of penetration testing can be used to identify vulnerabilities in the system. Vulnerability scanners are mostly used by security analysts, while penetration testers are typically associated with ethical hackers.

Vulnerability scanning is a great exercise for anyone involved in information assurance because it gives you an idea about the work required in the field. It also allows you to find any possible threats that may occur in future.

What is the primary purpose of penetration testing?

The primary purpose of penetration testing is to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in the network and perimeter defenses of a computer system.

Penetration testing can also result in an attack on an organization’s cyber-defenses, and the goal is to minimize the time and effort needed for security personnel to find, understand, monitor, or prevent future attacks.

Penetration tests are usually performed against computer systems with either prior knowledge of the system or no previous knowledge at all.

Ethical hackers, also known as penetration testers, can use publicly available information to help them plan their attack.

The value of the information on the Internet has led to this method becoming one of the most popular ways of performing penetration tests.

How to perform Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing is when cybersecurity professionals are hired by a company to probe their website or IT infrastructure for vulnerabilities.

The goal is to find any holes in the system that could be exploited, so the company can fix them before an attacker finds them. Pen testing should be done often, even if there’s no evidence of an attack.

Penetration testing is typically seen as a last resort. It’s expensive and sometimes only uncovers problems that the company already knew about. That said, penetration testing can reveal serious vulnerabilities in systems that need to be addressed immediately.

Typically, a penetration tester will probe the company’s website or systems. If they find a hole that could compromise someone’s security, then they let the adversary in and watch what happens from there.

The process is called “red teaming” because white hat hackers are finding potential weak points before black hats can exploit them.

Whether the company is paying the testers or they’re providing their services for free, penetration testing can be a literal pain in the neck.

It’s an arduous process that often takes months to complete, especially if there are complex security measures in place. Penetration testing can also be dangerous for employees who may have access to sensitive material while the test is being conducted.

The biggest challenge for penetration testers is that in order to find the holes in the system, they have to act like attackers.

They often need to pretend that they’re working with or for competitors in order to get deep access into the company’s network. Unlike an attacker, though, penetration testers don’t steal any information when they’re done and they don’t cause any damage.

Why Penetration Testing is important?

Penetration testing is a way that penetration testers can evaluate and test the cyber security of an organization by using an external perspective.

After this task is completed, they produce a report to communicate the results of their evaluation to the organization.

Penetration testing can also be done as a preventive measure. The goal in either situation is to see if there’s any vulnerability so that steps can be taken before there’s a breach.

How much does Penetration Testing cost?

The cost of penetration testing varies from company to company. A penetration test can be as low as a few hundred dollars, or it could be in the tens of thousands of dollars depending on the complexity and scope of the test.

How to learn penetration testing?

There are a few ways that you can learn penetration testing.

One way is to find a mentor.

Another way is to find an online course and read the book “A Bug Hunter’s Diary”. Another way is to read a blog. If you really want, you can even pick up a certification or two.

You can also do online courses as well.

How often should penetration testing be done?

The frequency of penetration testing varies by industry and in most cases it is recommended to perform testing at least once a month.

What is Electronic Penetration Testing?

An electronic penetration test (aka “pentest”) is an operation by the security assessor to emulate real-world attack scenarios in order to assess electronic data security.

The recommended frequency of pentesting depends on the type of equipment, deployment cycles and the degree of risk acceptable to the organization.

Top Penetration Testing Tools

Below is a list of the top penetration testing tools and software. It covers cybersecurity, ethical hacking, security assessments and other information about these tools.

1) Nessus:

It has been the most popular network security scanner for over 20 years. The scanner runs on many operating systems and provides an interface with many displays to help analyzers identify vulnerabilities in unix and Windows based networks. It is a tool we recommend for any pentester client base.

2) Wireshark:

This free networking packet capture utility allows you to examine all packets that travel through your network cards or across your wire mesh Ethernet connection. It is used mainly by protocol developers, but it is also very useful for security professionals because it can help them to analyze network traffic and discover security problems.

3) BlueScanner:

One of the most popular Network Vulnerability Scanner for Linux based systems is BlueScanner. It can scan single servers or a range of IPs for vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, XSS attacks, file inclusion, Local File Inclusion attack etc. As one of the best vulnerability scanners, BlueScanner is able to detect any kind of vulnerabilities in all kind of systems such as web applications, databases and file servers.

4) OWASP ZAP:

OWASP Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) is one of the world’s most popular free security tools and an important open source project. It is an easy to use integrated penetration testing tool for finding vulnerabilities in web applications.

5) OWASP Xenotix XSS Exploit Framework:

Xenotix is a penetration testing tool to help analyze the security of a web application. Its unique feature is its exploitation techniques using DOM based XSS. This feature can be used to discover XSS vulnerabilities in the web application.

6) OWASP BeEf:

BeEF is short for The Browser Exploitation Framework Project and it allows penetration testers/red teamers to assess the security of a system by using client-side attack vectors. It works on most popular browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Opera and Mozilla Firefox.

7) Kali Linux:

Kali Linux is a Debian-based distribution for digital forensics and penetration testing created by Offensive Security. It includes hundreds of penetration-testing programs including Armitage (a graphical cyber attack management tool), Nmap (a port scanner), Wireshark (a packet analyzer), John the Ripper (a password cracker), Aircrack-ng (a software suite for penetration-testing wireless LANs) and many more.

8) Core Impact Pro:

Core Impact Pro is an integrated penetration testing platform that supports social engineering, the exploitation of web applications and databases, network attacks, attacking Windows hosts via Windows services, Bluetooth attacks and more. It also includes a license for Armitage, which is a graphical cyber attack management tool that works with Core Impact.

9) Burp Suite:

Burp Suite is an integrated platform for performing security testing of web applications. Its tools include an intercepting proxy for attacking and testing web apps, a spider for crawling the application, an automated crawler and an extender tool to support user-defined extensions.

What is a Penetration Tester?

A penetration tester can be a person who is authorized access to a computer network or it’s information with the intent of assessing its vulnerabilities from an outside perspective.

A penetration tester performs his job by looking for weaknesses in firewalls, passwords, software code, and physical security.


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